Wednesday, 12 March 2014

David Cameron presides over largest liberalisation of abortion practice since 1967 Abortion Act

Prime Minister David Cameron has presided over the largest liberalisation of abortion practice since the passing of the Abortion Act in 1967.

Under his leadership, former health minister Andrew Lansley (pictured), working closely with abortion providers and senior figures at the Department of Health, has managed to smuggle in what is in effect a nurse-led abortion service without the issue ever being discussed in parliament and without the knowledge of most of his own party colleagues.

This is how he managed it.

When the Abortion Act was passed in 1967 it was intended to allow abortion only in a limited set of circumstances.

Under the Act an abortion could only be performed by a ‘registered medical practitioner’ (ie. a doctor) and only when two registered medical practitioners were of the opinion, ‘formed in good faith’, that certain conditions applied.

About 98% of all abortions are currently performed on grounds ‘that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family’.

The two certifying doctors are required to carry out this balancing of medical risk and it is implicit in the legislation that they would meet with the woman to make an assessment about whether these medical conditions applied. How otherwise could they carry out their statutory duties ‘in good faith’?

The Labour government understood this principle. Their ‘Procedures for the approval of independent sector places for the termination of pregnancy’, issued in 1999, were crystal clear:

‘Under the Abortion Act 1967, pregnancies are terminated to protect health. Other than in an emergency to save a woman’s life, medical practitioners must give their opinions on the reasons under the Act for the termination following consultation with the woman.’ (emphasis mine)

In other words, both doctors were obliged actually to see the woman in making this health assessment.

But Andrew Lansley, who was Shadow Health Secretary at the time, did not like this arrangement. So in May 2008, during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, he advocated abolition of the two doctor rule in his Second reading speech. He later backed off in the face of some adverse publicity and an amendment aimed at dispensing with the two doctors was never debated or voted upon.

However, four years later, as Secretary of State for Health in the Coalition government, he saw the opportunity effectively to dispense with the two doctor requirement by stealth.

So in July 2012, without consultation and without informing parliament, he secretly issued new interim abortion procedures to independent abortion providers which effectively dispensed with the two doctor requirement.

On 9 July 2012, in answer to a parliamentary question, junior health minister Anne Milton hinted at Lansley’s new reading of the Abortion Act: ‘There is no requirement that both doctors must see and examine the woman’, she said.

So under Lansley’s new arrangements, it was no longer necessary for two doctors to see and examine the woman. One apparently would do (that being the natural reading of ‘not both’).

Lansley was replaced as Health Secretary by Jeremy Hunt on 4 September that year. But his ‘Interim procedures’ were not put up on the website until 3 January 2013, almost six months after abortion clinics had been issued with them. 

Again there was no public announcement. In fact the existence of these ‘interim procedures’ was not even mentioned in parliament for another two months, when they were first referred to by health minister Anna Soubry in an oral answer to Fiona Bruce on 5 March.

But the ‘Interim procedures’ reveal how Lansley had even further reinterpreted the law:

‘We consider it good practice that one of the two certifying doctors has seen the woman, though this is not a legal requirement.’

So now it was not even necessary for either doctor to see the patient. It is simply ‘good practice’ for one to do so.

This statement from the interim procedures was repeated word for word in the ‘Revised procedures’ put out for consultation by the Department of Health in November 2013. But in these we also had the following curious additional statement:

‘Members of a multidisciplinary team (MDT) can play a role in seeking information from the woman.’

So under Lansley’s direction, the requirement that two doctors consult with the woman has been dispensed with in a stepwise fashion. Now the whole process can be carried out by nurses or other members of a multidisciplinary team who conceivably might even be clerical figures with no medical or nursing training at all.

The two doctors will still add their signatures (without ever seeing the woman) but their involvement has been reduced to that of a perfunctory nod, effectively ticking a box.

It is perhaps no surprise that we are now seeing such widespread abuse of the Abortion Act in the form of sex selective abortions, illegal pre-signing of forms and over 185,000 abortions a year authorised on spurious mental health grounds. When cabinet ministers, together with civil servants, are allowed to rewrite laws without reference to proper democratic procedures this is exactly what we should expect.

Things had arguably slipped enough with unregulated doctors at the helm. But now that doctors are effectively side-lined we can expect very quickly to see the slide to a publicly funded, nurse-led, private abortion service where ‘willing providers’ like BPAS and MSI cut costs and fight for their market share.

And this is exactly what we are seeing. Private abortion providers furnished with tax payers' money have already grown their market share to 60% of all abortions. The revised procedures are also gunning for nurses to perform abortion procedures and for the second stage of medical (drug induced) abortions to be carried out at home, two further ‘reinterpretations’ of the Act.

So how do women feel about this effective rewriting of statute law by a Conservative cabinet minister?

Actually they overwhelmingly oppose moves to allow doctors to approve abortions without seeing patients face-to-face.

A poll of more than 2,000 people carried out by ComRes and published in the Telegraph on 7 March, found that 89 per cent agreed that ‘a woman requesting an abortion should always be seen in person by a qualified doctor’. While 85 per cent of men polled agreed with the statement, support among women was 92 per cent.

I don’t think I have ever heard of an opinion poll generating a one-sided result of quite this magnitude.

Furthermore, just over three quarters of those polled also thought that women’s health could be put at risk unless doctors signing authorisation forms had seen the patient, with 73 per cent of men agreeing but 78 per cent of women.

Again this is hardly surprising. Abortion is a procedure with contraindications and complications which women seeking fully informed consent have a right to know about – from a doctor.

The consultation around the revised abortion procedures has now closed and the Department of Health is just about to release the new guidance for both private abortion clinics and doctors.

At that point Lansley’s new interpretation of the Abortion Act – that no doctor need see a woman before authorising an abortion – will be set in stone, without parliament ever having debated it and with most government MPs not even being aware that it has happened right under their noses.

David Cameron is already deeply unpopular with many social conservatives, and this rewriting of abortion procedures under his leadership will not endear him further to them. Did Cameron know what Lansley was doing and approve it? Or did Lansley sneak this measure through without his leader’s knowledge? Was Cameron collaborating or being deceived?

These are very serious questions.

I suspect also that there are many other MPs in the Tory party and elsewhere who, whilst not necessarily having socially conservative views on abortion, will nonetheless be deeply concerned that a cabinet minister can effectively rewrite statute law on such a key issue, in such a clandestine, and quite possibly even illegal, way.

I would not be surprised, as the scale of this operation gets out, that we might be seeing MPs buried by bulging parliamentary postbags from angry constituents.

Then I expect that these same MPs will start asking some very pertinent parliamentary questions which even David Cameron might find difficult to answer. 


  1. If Peter Saunders could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

    1. May the good Lord bless you Winston

    2. Winston, my dear man, there are plenty of ladies out there who oppose abortion. Believe me, they have the ability (and the willingness) to get pregnant, without resorting to killing their own offspring.

    3. And, by the way, it isn't like a woman is FORCED to get pregnant every time she has sex (except in cases of rape) - there ways to avoid it, you know. It's called contraception - one of the wonders of modern medicine. Another sure fire way - avoid sex. It's nice, but not compulsory.

    4. Easy for you to say, James. Men never have to worry about the consequences of pregnancy. The side effects include but are not limited to:

      Leg Cramps
      Dizziness / Faintness
      Heartburn / Reflux
      Low Iron
      Mood Swings
      Heartburn / Reflux
      High Blood Pressure / Hypertension
      Low Iron
      Mood Swings
      Morning Sickness
      Rib Pain / Soreness
      Tender / Sore Breasts
      Thrush / Yeast Infection
      Varicose Veins

      You'd think pro-lifers would have developed an artificial womb by now if they wanted abortion to be a thing of the past. I guess they don't care about the unborn as much as they tried to make themselves look.

    5. We suffer from a lot of those things anyway just as a normal part of a monthly cycle. The pill also has awful side effects and coils can be painful.

      Annoying as it is when men say 'abortion is all women's fault why don't they use contraception?' as if contraception never failed and as if what men do with their penises had nothing to do with where babies come from (sorry, James, but it is kind of annoying) I find it very disingenuous when men try to pose as my knight in shining armour defending my 'right' to have an abortion. It's very rare for a woman to cite the complications of pregnancy as a reason for abortion. Most women say they didn't have the support of the father and their own family and so they couldn't see any other choice. It's not uncommon for women to experience a deep sense of loss, even if she's sure she made the right choice. In other words, men want sex, but they don't want the insomnia, the big belly, the morning sickness, the mood swings, the crying in the middle of the night, the responsibility of a child to bring up.

      Actually, there have always been women who were prepared to sleep with you and then get rid of any babies you found inconvenient. They were called prostitutes and you used to have to pay for them. OK, so it wasn't safe to have an abortion, but then childbirth wasn't exactly safe either. Convincing women that abortion is liberating must be the biggest con men have ever achieved, and completely the opposite of the original aims of feminism.

    6. Fiddlesticks, are you saying women bear no responsibility for having sex? That's just baloney. It takes two to tango. And, except in cases of rape, the woman is consenting to 'what the man does with his penis'. It's disingenuous to pretend that women have nothing to do with the act of sex. As for failing contraception, yep that's a risk - but if you aren't prepared to take the chance and deal with the risk (by having the baby), then don't have sex. A 100% foolproof way of avoiding pregnancy. Simples.

    7. Winston, if you're a woman, why not choose a female moniker? And what do you mean, men don't have to worry about the consequences of pregnancy? That's rubbish. You know, as well as I do, that if a woman decides to have a child against the wishes of her male partner, he is FORCED to provide child support WHETHER HE WANTS TO OR NOT. I would consider that worrying about the consequences of pregnancy BIGTIME - not merely in the immediate aftermath of pregnancy, but until the child reaches adulthood.
      Those "diseases" you've listed there, copied from Wikipedia I presume (you've repeated some by mistake), are hardly earth-shattering. A number of men, as well as non-pregnant women, suffer from the same things (apart from the thrush and the sore breasts). Anyway, since when have women had abortions because they couldn't stomach the leg cramps? Keep it real, matey.

    8. Peter, how about you answer my question and tell us if it IS illegal or not, what Andrew Lansley did. My guess is, it is.

    9. James, paying child support is child's play (no pun intended) when measured against the physical side effects of pregnancy.

      And I never said that women don't assume responsibility for sex. What I take issue with is your sweeping claim that all unprotected sex is tantamount to consenting to a pregnancy.

    10. "Fiddlesticks, are you saying women bear no responsibility for having sex?"

      Of course not. But it takes two to make a baby, and we've got to take into account the society we live in where just not having sex is looked on as barmy. It's fairly common for women to have abortions when they discover that their boyfriend or husband (who they thought would support them) just isn't interested, and sometimes pressure can come from parents or friends telling them 'to do the responsible thing'. Women have even reported moral pressure from doctors or nursing staff when a scan suggests that there might be a developmental problem. This is normally along the lines of 'think of the effect on your other children'. There's also cases of abuse (not just rape) when a woman is put under pressure to practice unsafe sex by her partner, or when a woman is in a violent relationship and doesn't feel like she can bring a child into that situation.

      What bugs me is that the 'pregnancy advisory centres' don't actually help women in these situations. They offer the 'choice' of 'abortion or here's the number of an adoption agency'. They then spend a lot of time trying to undermine the integrity of charities that do try to help women have their babies in difficult circumstances.

    11. Has anybody recently realised that if life begins at conception (obviously) then abortion is the deliberate ending of a human life. How many brilliant leaders and all round achievers have never seen the light of day because of this aberration. So we often struggle to find good quality leaders in every walk of life.

    12. Exactly. Plus having sex is always at the risk of having a baby and the participants know that when they indulge. Why should the new life, which is not part of the mother to be, have their life and purpose terminated? Those not fighting against abortion are akin to those in Nazi Germany who stood by and did nothing when the Holocaust was happening.

  2. The socially conservative Right cann now define the Tory party as the Nasty party.

    Prior to this there was no right to kill a child - it required the consent of two medical doctors.

    Now the Tory party has undermined the most fundamental of human rights - the right to life.

    All human rights must ultimately refer to the right to life.

    the Tories have reverted to type - they support the reintroduction of slavery through homosexual 'marriage'. Given that anal penetration cannot produce children - the Tories support the selling and buying of eggs and sperm and the renting of wombs: the buying and selling of children on the open market.

    The Tory says he supports the family and yet this creature deprives these children of a mother or father.

    The Tory has lost his moorings: he has wiped away the horizon; for him there is no Up nor Down; the compass needle spins:

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.


  3. What do you mean, "possibly" illegal? Considering that the abortion Act stupulates that two doctors have to give their medical opinions, is this not FRANKLY illegal? Can't it be challenged in a court of law?

  4. To Anonymous
    If you look at the MPs who voted for gay 'marriage' the bulk of these came from Labour and the Lib Dems, whereas over 100 Tory MPs voted against.

    1. Say Brian!

      It was Cameron's flagship policy. People who have not had their consciences seared by the 'love bomb' of Tory homosexual rhetoric - cannot vote for the new pro-slavery party.

      Save the children!

      Don't support the pro-slavery Tory party!

  5. Thanks Peter - 100% true, and blindingly obvious to any right thinking physician. The trouble is, many of us and many people in public life are blinkered and blinded by decades of the insidious erosion of the fundamentals of our cultural foundations...

  6. Abortion is liberating and the biggest con that men have ever achieved, Fiddlesticks? So you admit that women fell for it?
    I wonder where you stand on the consequences of abortion: PTSD; bipolar symptoms; depression; suicidal tendencies 2 say nothing of a plausible 30% risk of breast cancer ..
    and have you ever questioned women who have had an abortion and lived to regret it?
    Yours, A Dickenson

    1. Those consequences wouldn't have happened if anti-choicers like yourself didn't shame women for controlling their own fertility.

      And when safe abortions are less likely to cause death than even the safest childbirth, it's clear that abortion is better for a woman's health, overall.

    2. Ashley, I'm a bit confused. My point is that it's a con to convince women that they're liberated just because they can get an abortion more safely than in previous centuries. 'Equality as long as you're prepared to abort any unplanned children, otherwise you get left behind financially, educationally, socially etc.' is not equality. Maybe some very tough women are happy with this situation, but, like you say, a lot of women suffer from depression and regret.

    3. Natural childbirth concludes with happy and healthy mothers and babies in 98% of pregnancies. So why the emotional focus on trying to generalise the 2% of problem situations that deserve all the attention that can be given?

    4. Winston

      'Those consequences wouldn't have happened if anti-choicers like yourself didn't shame women for controlling their own fertility.'

      You stupid too?

      An abortion usually happens when the woman has lost control of her fertility.

      No! means no.


  7. angela ellis-jones16 March 2014 at 07:56

    In the interwar period,women who slept with men they weren't married to were known as 'amateur prostitutes'. If we returned to sound traditional moral attitudes,we wouldn't have the present moral chaos.

    I've never understood the attractions of permissive behaviour - why would anyone be daft enough to allow another person to use them,without the commitment of marriage?

    What do you expect from A Lansley?He's always been uber-liberal. No real conservative can support Cameron's unConservative party.

  8. Thanks Peter. Even those who support abortion should want women to see a doctor before they go through with such a major procedure.

    1. I think that most of us can agree that Marriage, sex, and children were created as a unity. The existence of one implies the other two. The sexual revolution was intended to sever those connections in order to avoid both the commitment of marriage, and the obligation of parenthood. Thus could personal gratifictaion become the penultimate purpose of human sexuality. Effective contraception that didn't depend upon male cooperation was the critical enabling technology for that revolution. Contraception still fails however. So abortion became the backstop of the revolution - and eventually the Holy Sacrament of Feminism in its war against maternity

      And to those above that uphold a woman's "right to choose" would you still be happy if she chose to abort a baby because (theoretically) it would develop into a homosexual?

      We already have the ridiculous situation of, despite protestations to the contrary, gender selection regarded as abhorrent whilst abortion because the pregnancy is an inconvenience is allowed.

  9. God is a baby killing machine and Conservatives are baby raping machines.

    Christian Republicans Are Often Pedophiles

    1. Please have your mind examined by a competent registered psychiatrist.

  10. Sherry Holloway24 March 2014 at 14:29

    Hi Dr Saunders, do you recommend writing to our MPs about this?

    1. It puts me in mind of Isaiah's words, especially when I consider the ugly images of termination in practice, Isa 1:15 'And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.'

  11. Hi Dr Saunders,

    If this is illegal, can it not be challenged in a court of law?

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  13. This entire post is complete nonsense. As a third year law student who has studied medical law for a year, the law does not require, and never has required, either doctor to see the women before approving the abortion request. They can do so on the basis of her medical notes. However, this has absolutetely no bearing on the fact that a doctor must still carry out the whole abortion procedure. These are two requirements which are entirely separate and unrelated.

    And before anyone tries to argue that this is incorrect, just read the law below: Section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967 states that in order for an abortion to legal, it must be conducted 'by a registered medical practitioner' and that 'two registered medical practitioners [must be] of the opinion, formed in good faith' that one of the statutory grounds for abortion is met. Registered medical practitioner is taken to mean doctor, and so nurses cannot authorise, nor can they carry out abortions. The abortion procedure must be authorised and carried out by a doctor. But nowhere does it say that the registered medical practitioners must see the woman. This nonense article leads you to believe that the procedure can be carried out by nurses alone without any supervision or involvement of doctors, but as the stated law makes clear, this is rubbish. A 1981 House of Lords case (Royal College of Nursing v Dept of Health and Social Security [1981] AC 800) held that the abortion must be 'prescribed by a registetred medical practitioner [and] carried out in accordance with his directions', and he must 'remain in charge throughout’. Hence nurses are permitted to carry out parts of abortion procedure but only if supervised by a doctor. I would love to know where the author of this article got his completely inaccurate information! The guidance he is whittering on about simply restates what the law says, and what it has always said. Peoples ignorance infuriates me - if you don't know what you are talking about, just keep your mouth shut!

    1. 'However, this has absolutetely no bearing on the fact that a doctor must still carry out the whole abortion procedure.'

      The exception being on the ground of conscience.

    2. 'The guidance he is whittering on about simply restates what the law says, and what it has always said. Peoples ignorance infuriates me - if you don't know what you are talking about, just keep your mouth shut!'

      Wittering - not 'whittering'.

      Not 'Peoples' - but 'People's'.

      Shut it!

  14. Considering that the abortion Act stupulates that two doctors have to give their medical opinions, is this not FRANKLY illegal? Can't it be challenged in a court of law?

  15. thank you Peter for this grim information. my MP continues to take my letters about this to the Secretary of State for health and his replies are foggy and not reassuring.


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